Monthly Archives: May 2010


The Legal Position on the Israeli Attack

I think that anybody with any fairness is bound to admit that the statement William Hague came out with is much better than anything on Israel which New Labour ever came out with, especially this bit:

“This news underlines the need to lift the restrictions on access to Gaza, in line with UNSCR 1860. The closure is unacceptable and counter-productive. There can be no better response from the international community to this tragedy than to achieve urgently a durable resolution to the Gaza crisis.

I call on the Government of Israel to open the crossings to allow unfettered access for aid to Gaza, and address the serious concerns about the deterioration in the humanitarian and economic situation and about the effect on a generation of young Palestinians

?.”

http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/news/latest-news/?view=News&id=22300485

But as I told this afternoon’s tremendous spontaneous demonstration on Whitehall, fine words are not enough and we must now see the kind of sanctions regime we saw against apartheid South Africa.

A word on the legal position, which is very plain. To attack a foreign flagged vessel in international waters is illegal. It is not piracy, as the Israeli vessels carried a military commission. It is rather an act of illegal warfare.

Because the incident took place on the high seas does not mean however that international law is the only applicable law. The Law of the Sea is quite plain that, when an incident takes place

on a ship on the high seas (outside anybody’s territorial waters) the applicable law is that of the flag state of the ship on which the incident occurred. In legal terms, the Turkish ship was Turkish territory.

There are therefore two clear legal possibilities.

Possibility one is that the Israeli commandos were acting on behalf of the government of Israel in killing the activists on the ships. In that case Israel is in a position of war with Turkey, and the act falls under international jurisdiction as a war crime.

Possibility two is that, if the killings were not authorised Israeli military action, they were acts of murder under Turkish jurisdiction. If Israel does not consider itself in a position of war with Turkey, then it must hand over the commandos involved for trial in Turkey under Turkish law.

In brief, if Israel and Turkey are not at war, then it is Turkish law which is applicable to what happened on the ship. It is for Turkey, not Israel, to carry out any inquiry or investigation into events and to initiate any prosecutions. Israel is obliged to hand over indicted personnel for prosecution.

Craig Murray is a former British Ambassador. He is also a former Head of the Maritime Section of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. He negotiated the UK’s current maritime boundaries with Ireland, Denmark (Faeroes), Belgium and France, and boundaries of the Channel Islands, Turks and Caicos and British Virgin Islands. He was alternate Head of the UK Delegation to the UN Preparatory Commission on the Law of the Sea. He was Head of the FCO Section of the Embargo Surveillance Centre, enforcing sanctions on Iraq, and directly responsible for clearance of Royal Navy boarding operations in the Persian Gulf.

Reviews of Craig Murray’s War on Terror Memoir, “Murder in Samarkand” – published in the US as “Dirty Diplomacy”:

“It really is a magnificent achievement” – Noam Chomsky

“A fearless book by a fearless man. Craig Murray tells the truth whether the “authorities” like it or not. I salute a man of integrity” – Harold Pinter

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Truly Disgusting

I have just spoken to the FCO press spokesman. The line on the legality of the Israeli attack is “We are not getting into that, especially when the details are unclear.” They are waiting for “clarification from our Embassy in Tel Aviv”.

That is a terrible reaction from the coailition government to its first test on human rights. The detail can make no difference to the fact that the Israelis attacked foreign flagged vessels in international waters. That is a priori illegal. Where the hell are FCO legal advisers? Is this government ignoring them just like New Labour?

UPDATE

Demonstration outside Downing St at 2pm. Doubtless it will be small, but I feel obliged to be there.

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What is the Point of Lib Dems Being in Government

if the UK does not condemn this Israeli massacre?

I can tell you categorically, as a former Head of the FCO Maritime Section, that a Turkish flagged ship on the high seas is Turkish territory. This Israeli attack was undeniably illegal.

Having seen so many illegal wars lately, you might be interested to know that in international law Turkey could now with perfect legality declare itself to be at war with Israel. I do not advocate that, but after the fake justification over Iraq I thought you might be interested to see what a genuine causus belli looks like.

But what the UK should be doing is giving voice to the strongest possible condemnation of Israel. What is the point of Lib Dems being in government if we cannot act against this kind of naked atrocity? Economic sanctions against Israel must be a minimum response.

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I Just Can’t Believe This Is Happening

In two and a half hours of coverage BBC News has interviewed the Israeli government spokesman and covered live an Israeli government press conference, while reporters have set out at length the Israeli government view of events nine times. There has been no attempt to interview anyone from the convoy organisers, from the Turkish government, or from the Palestinians, and no expression of scepticism or even reserve by any reporter about the Israeli version of events.

A BBC journalist has stated – quite wrongly – that the blockade of Gaza is legal, and there has been no mention of the fact that it is illegal to board a foreign ship in international waters.

UPDATE BBC producres refuse to put up any interviewee except from the Israeli propaganda regime. The Israeli command on the 10am news was the worst example yet. But my warm congratulations to the female anchor who, despite this backroom manipulation, cut across his mendacity. I fear her career may be damaged.

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Israeli Outrage

So now we have a reported 16 new Rachel Corries, as commandos of the rogue Israeli state massacre unarmed activists taking aid – building materials, purified water and electric powered wheelchairs – to Gaza. At least 60 more are reported injured, some critically.

The nationalities of the dead and injured are not yet known, but one would hope that this would finally turn the tide of unthinking Zionism among senior politicians that has enabled them to overlook Israel’s inexorable trend into a more and more racist, militarised and intolerant state. The brave activists who died will certainly have helped turn the media spotlight across Europe on Israel’s unconscionable treatment of Gaza and the other occupied territories.

The aid flotilla had actually obeyed the Israeli Navy’s order to turn away from Gaza when the ships were boarded. It is worth stating that the boarding of the ships – which were not in Israeli territorial waters – was in itself an illegal act. That is crucial as we wait for the Israelis’ usual lies about the incident, which will predictable claim their heavily armed elite commandos were attacked by the unarmed peace protestors.

It is disgraceful that I can find no reaction from the British government to this.

UPDATE As I predicted, the BBC 8am news reported that the Israeli commandos opened fire after they were attacked with “knives, axes and firearms”. There was absolutely no scepticism expressed at this Israeli claim, and no attempt to seek a reply from any representative of the aid convoy. The BBC has not mentioned – or interviewed anybody who might mention – the indisputable fact that it was illegal under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and in customary international law for the Israelis to board the ships in international waters.

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Time to Legalise Prostitution – and Drugs

Prostitutes have to get murdered before they get treated by the media with any dignity. We need to consider carefully the lessons from the cruel exposure, yet again, of their vulnerability.

Prostitution is massive in the UK. Estimates of the number of prostitutes varies, but the lowest serious estimate I can find is 30,000, while the figure most commonly quoted is 80,000.

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/love-sex/sex-industry/sex-for-sale-the-truth-about-prostitution-in-britain-1035038.html

What is beyond doubt is that the number of customers for these prostitutes runs into millions – a significant proportion of the adult male population of the UK. Yet this massive industry operates entirely in the shadows. It is not actually illegal, but it is hedged in by legislation that forces it to operate secretly. Means of granting discretion to customers without the need for initially meeting up in dark dangerous abandoned streets, are likely to lead quickly to prosecution.

Our current laws on prostitution are the product of Victorian prudery, and have been reinforced by the still narrower zeal of political feminists who wiish to restrict the uses of female sexuality.

The semi-legal status leaves prostitutes lurking in the dark, and often subject to the attention of pimps, traffickers – and sometimes murderers.

Of course, we need economic policies which provide good opportunities for everyone, so that prostitution is a choice. But for women who wish to be prostitutes, they should be free to work openly, in good conditions, at home or in safe establishments, in security and with access to medical services. Sex workers should be able to pay tax like anybody else.

But the other thing which is plain is that the sex workers of Bradford are often in the industry to fuel their drug habit. Here there are stark parallels in the legal position on drugs and prostitution, born of the inevitable counter-productivity of legislating for personal morality. The legal classification of drugs has very little relationship to the harmfulness of the drugs themselves, but are rather a strange inheritance of historical social factors. The last government was continually in conflict with its own scientific advisers who pointed this out.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/6474053.stm

It is the blanket and unnecessary illegality of drugs that provides the criminal world with its main source of revenue, destabilises entire producer countries and denies society the benefits of quality control, hygiene and taxation.

It would take a politician of rare courage and vision to take on the tabloid press on these issues. Unfortunately we don’t have any of those.

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David Laws Does the Decent Thing

I am genuinely very sorry for David Laws, but he has done the decent thing and avoided a horrible protracted media exposure. He plainly broke the rules on not paying rent to a partner, and trying to hide behind quibbles on what constitutes a partner would not have helped.

Laws has now shown that he has a great deal more commonsense than many of the commenters on my earlier post and pretty well all other Lib Dem bloggers.

http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2010/05/david_laws_must.html

Indeed the knee jerk tribalism of Lib Dem blogs this morning was pretty disgusting.

This resignation sends out a good signal that any doubt on personal probity will not be tolerated. The parliamentary investigation into Laws’ claims will go ahead. I can think of no reason why there should now be any further public interest in press intrusion into his private life.

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Ahead of my Time – Eurovision

azerbaijan-cp-6698217.jpg

As usual, where Craig Murray treads, the rest of Europe follows in time. Of last year’s Eurovision song contest I blogged:

Last night I voted for Azerbaijan because I thought the girl was seriously hot.

http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2009/05/eurovision.html

Tonight I expect the rest of Europe will catch on.

UPDATE

In the end I voted for Armenia, as having an altogether better class of tottie.

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Gay Pride in Moscow

Warm praise to Nikolai Alekseev and the other organisers of today’s Gay Pride mini-march in Moscow. Having been banned for the last five years by Mayor Luzhkov, Putin and Medvedev, and after an appalling catalogue of political violence and persecution, activists managed to hold a ten minute street demo in Moscow today with nobody injured or arrested. This was achieved by posting false trails all across the web as to where it would be, and by activists buying new clean mobile phones in the last day to organise it.

Many congratulations also to Peter Tatchell, who went across to help and has become a tremendous advocate of human rights worldwide. Peter said of the banning of the march:

“It is the latest of many suppressions of civil liberties that happen in supposedly democratic Russia. Many other protests are also denied and repressed, not just gay ones. Autocracy rules under President Medvedev,”

It is also worth noting that the British Embassy refused to help, including refusing to host a gay social on Embassy premises to mark Moscow gay pride day. That is an appalling failure – typical of the FCO – to show support for the rights we are supposed to espouse.

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The Lords Mire Must Be Drained

It is very difficult to look at the dissolution honours list for the Lords without retching. Lord Prescott, Lord Reid, Lord Blair of Stockwell Tube Station? Then there are the Tory donors. Floella Benjamin is the only redeeming feature. Indeed, I hope someone can find Brian Cant and put him in there too.

But seriously, surely this lot, with so many of Gordon Brown’s backroom chums as well, stretch to breaking point the credibility of the Lords? It beggars belief that we still have this ancient stench-pit of corruption and patronage as an integral part of our legislature.

Nick Clegg has promised Lords Reform from this coalition, but Clegg deferred to the Tories by mentioning “grandfather rights”. The Tories are insisting that existing peers – or at least a large number of them – should remain members of the Lords until they die. So no democratic upper chamber until Ian Blair, John Prescott and John Reid peg it? Not to mention the new Tory peer 33 year old Oxford graduate Nat Wei? It is ludicrous.

Grandfather rights are unacceptable. The Lords must be swept away, and replaced by a democratic upper chamber with no unelected grandparents invited. Preferably elections should be by PR, but a fully elected upper chamber by 2015 will be over a hundred years overdue.

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David Laws Must Resign

I am among those who has been very impressed by David Laws’ performance in his brief ministerial career. And I have read carefully the Lib Dems blogs – which seem universally to be defending him, like this.

http://markreckons.blogspot.com/2010/05/david-laws-should-not-resign.html

http://www.libdemvoice.org/david-laws-issues-statement-on-his-expenses-and-sexuality-19728.html

The difficulty is that the Commons rules stated quite unequivocally that an MP could not claim to rent a room in a home owned by their partner. In 2006 a specific amendment was made to make that crystal clear. Laws does not deny he broke the rules, and is paying the money back.

The point made by Lib Dems throughout the blogosphere is that, if Laws and his partner had owned the homes jointly, he could have claimed the mortgage payments. That is of course true. But Laws did not do that, and the rules are explicit that the alternative of paying rent to your partner is not allowed.

Laws’ explanation for his behaviour is that he did not wish to come out as gay. That is his right. Had he therefore not made any second home expenses claims, he would have forfeited £40,000 and deserved great sympathy for the sacrifice made to his domestic privacy. Nobody would have launched an investigation into why the very wealthy David Laws did not make a second home claim.

To “protect your privacy” by making taxpayer funded rent payments to your partner against the rules, was always going to be counter-productive. It also involved what I presume (and I do not know) is a further little lie to the Commons that he was renting a bedroom in his partner’s house, when it is surely more likely that they share one.

It is, to say the least, extremely unfortunate that this revelation about David Laws should come out at this moment – and the Telegraph’s timing opens a whole raft of other questions. And what Laws has done is less bad, for example, than Michael Gove’s second home flipping. But there is no point to the Liberal Democrats if we do not aspire to higher standards than Labour and the Conservatives, and it is deeply disappointing to see the LibDem blogs’ tribal rally around Laws.

Laws has just announced a public sector pay freeze. He is the man who would have to announce cuts next year that will inflict very real pain upon public sector workers, benefit recipients and public service users. Having a millionaire to do that is already difficult. Having a millionaire, who broke the rules on expenses claims and trousered £40,000 he had to pay back, to do that is simply untenable.

Laws should do the decent thing now.

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It is Baroness Scotland Who Should be Jailed

Lolohai Tapui has been jailed for four months. If we jailed every illegal immigrant for four months, that would constitute over 300,000 prison man years. The Independent story is entirely condemning of Tapui and exonerating of Scotland.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/baroness-scotlands-housekeeper-jailed-1985126.html

But who was really exploiting who here? £6 an hour, for God’s sake! In the heart of Central London? Anyone who has had an 0207 phone number knows that anyone over the age of 18 who will work of £6 an hour is an illegal immigrant. I am not nearly as rich as Baroness Scotland, and we pay our student babysitters £8 an hour.

£6 an hour = illegal immigrant. £6 an hour = cruel exploitation. The wrong woman is in prison.

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Rumblings in Tashkent

There is much consternation at the apparent decline of Gulnara Karimova’s multi-billion dollar company, Zeromax – which owns Uzbekistan’s most valuable economic assets.

http://www.eurasianet.org/node/61072

Gulnara is of course the daughter and favoured successor of dictator “President” Islam Karimov. Zeromax is, in addition to interests encompassing gold, uranium, coal, cement, cotton, hotels, night clubs and sex-trafficking, the Pentagon’s major conduit for land supply to US forces in Afghanistan.

The immediate cause of the shutdown appears to be arrears of US $440 million on multi billion loans given to Zeromax by the Uzbek government. The loans were secured on assets which Zeromax obtained in the first place for next to nothing from the Uzbek government’s closed “privatisation” process, otherwise known as “let the President’s daughter have everything”. Zeromax has never made any attempt to repay any of the loans.

Outside analysts are speculating that the moves against Zeromax represent a power grab against Gulnara by Prime Minister Mirzayev (the man who ordered the specific Murder in Samarkand which became the title of my book).

That seems to me improbable. More likely Zeromax has simply outlived its usefulness as a vehicle. I suspect that it is repositioning, simply. Zeromax worked pretty well for several years as a front to hide the fact that the Karimovs were hiving off much of Uzbekistan’s economic production for personal benefit. The cover has been well and truly blown for a couple of years now and Zeromax was attracting jealousy. So it gets jettisoned like a snake shedding an old skin. I don’t think you’ll find Gulnara has lost a penny.

If Zeromax goes down, its debts will be written off, and I will be astonished if the productive assets do not still remain under the control of the Karimovs, in a new vehicle or variety of vehicles.

Much more worrying is further evidence of the reach of the Karimovs in Washington. Paid Karimov lobbyist and former lawyer for Zeromax, Carolyn Lamm, is now President of the American Bar Association – how sickening is that?

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2009/11/13/lowering_the_bar?page=0,1

Presumably Lamm played a key role in the huge Pentagon supply contracts landed by Zeromax.

Almost worse, in the light of Karimov’s banning of all anti-Aids organisations and jailing of Maksim Popov,

http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2010/05/please_write_to.html#comments

is that Gulnara Karimova was feted at Cannes by Amfar – the American Foundation for Aids Research – as co-chair of their mega celebrity bash Cinema Against Aids at Cannes.

http://www.amfar.org/spotlight/event.aspx?id=8298

I several times telephoned AMFAR to ask how thay could justify celebrating Gulnara (two years running now), in the light of her regime’s purblind attitude to AIDS – not to mention the fact that the Karimov-Dostum narcotics trafficking racket is the main cause of AIDS in Uzbekistan. AMFAR refused to answer or return my calls.

I call for a boycott of AMFAR because of their continuing friendly links with the Uzbek regime. I do hope that people will continue to donate money for AIDS research, but to other less tainted charities.

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Academy Schools

I am against Academy Schools, unless the proposed flood of new ones are going materially to be different from the New Labour model.

In practice what happened in Academy Schools was that a business, organisation or individual was able to put in just 5% – yes, 5% of the capital costs, and nil – yes nil – of the running costs. For that, the “sponsor” got to choose the curriculum, while the school received a massively larger share of the available pot of state capital for schools, than would be given to any “normal” LEA school.

The state was still paying the vast bulk of the cost – 98% of capital and running costs in the first ten years. Non-academy schools were being starved of capital. The provider of the 2% got to be the boss and influence our children.

For Tony Blair, being a goggle-eyed God-inspired mass killer himself, it was an advantage that those most interested in this ability to influence our children were various forms of religious nutters, often distinguished by a disbelief in evolution.

So far as I can judge, the main difference between the New Labour model and the Gove model is that the swivel-eyed nutters may now not have to put up any money at all before they take over the school. This needs to be carefully watched.

I warmly welcome the demise of the national curriculum and the end of micro-management of teachers by the state. That is an advance. But that should lead to an empowerment of democratically elected lcoal councils – the local education authorities – not the committal of our children to a variety of unelected and unaccountable bodies, firms and individuals. I am not at all hostile to the idea of educational cooperatives under loose LEA guidance – but there is no sign to date that the new model looks like that.

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Parliament Square

It does not bode well that, while the Queen’s Speech was announcing a rebirth of civil liberty, Brian Haw was being arrested in Parliament Square. This was yet another bad move by the Met. They know Brian very well by now, and are fully aware that he is not a threat to the Queen. It beggars belief that, after they have stared at his every moment for years, they might suddenly think he was storing weapons or using drugs, This was crass and insensitive.

The rest of the Parliament Square “Peace Camp” is quite a different matter. I have not spoken with Brian recently, but I can tell you that it is wrong to presume that he welcomes or trusts all those comparatively fleeting campers who join him in good weather.

My own view is complex. There is, I believe, a genuine difference between the right to protest in Parliament Square – which I strongly support – and the right to live in Parliament Square, which in general I don’t support. Brian’s vigil is different because its maintenance became the only way to maintain the right to protest there under Draconian New Labour legislation. Camps, vigils and occupations have their place in protests. But do I think anybody has the right to pitch tent in Parliament Square and stay for weeks? No, I don’t really.

Public spaces are public, and if you appropriate them to live there, that is a loss to the public.

Actually for me the real scandal of Parliament Square is the sacrifice of this public space to the bloody motor car. It is not a square, it is a horribly busy traffic roundabout. It has been made quite deliberately almost impossible to get past the traffic and on the the green area of the square. None of the many sets of traffic lights has a pedestrian phase allowing you to do that.

Westminster is a disgrace. What should be the great public areas of the country – the Embankments, much of Trafalgar Square, Whitehall, The Mall, Birdcage Walk, Parliament Square – are horrible spaces full of noise, pollution and danger. Cars should be banned from the entire area.

I do hope the mean-minded charges against Brian are thrown out, though I doubt they will be. Another measure announced in the Queen’s Speech was elected police commissioners. Now wouldn’t Brian be a great candidate?

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